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American Homefront

MacDill AFB Hosts Military Escaping Sandy's Path

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TSgt. E. Parker Gyokeres
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621st Contingency Response Wing

Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base has become a temporary home for several military aircraft and crews moved out of the path of Hurricane Sandy.

The New Jersey-based 621st Contingency Response Wing is one of the readiness groups responsible for assessments and opening up air bases and landing strips after a disaster anywhere in the world.

Air Force Col. Kevin Oliver is in charge of the 60 member team temporarily moved from their joint base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey to Tampa. Last year, the same unit was relocated to Little Rock, Arkansas when Hurricane Irene threatened.

“Ironically, we brought with us the capability to live anywhere in a field, but if we broke out all of our tents then our response time would increase,” Oliver said. “So, in order to keep everyone together, we’re staying in one of the local hotels which is a great experience.”

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Credit Bobbie O'Brien
An Air Force C-17 - one of two - that transported the 621st Contingency Response Wing from it's New Jersey base to Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base.

 Oliver said other parts of their Contingency Response Group (CRG) stayed put at their bases in Virginia and Kentucky. He expects his team will remain at MacDill only a few days.

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Credit Bobbie O'Brien
Capt. Brian Cooper inside the C-17 Globemaster III that transported equipment and 60 crew members from New Jersey to Tampa's MacDill AFB out of Sandy's path.

Among the crew that arrived at MacDill Sunday is Captain Brian Cooper, a maintenance officer and crew commander. He’s a native of New Jersey and remembers similar storms most recently Hurricane Irene 2011.

“Last hurricane was Irene. My wife and I had just gotten a puppy and we sent her and the dog up to New York with her family so they were all together and safe,” Cooper said. “This one, almost exactly a year later, we have a baby on the way and a bigger puppy. So now, they’re up with her parents but they’re still safe.”

Many of the transplanted crew is using social media to stay in touch with their families and get photos and videos of the storm.